[What follows is an item first posted on this blog on this date in 2008:]
A dilemma more moral than legal
Keeping a dying man in jail pending appeal is unnecessary on the part of the Scottish court of criminal appeal
The refusal of the Scottish court of criminal appeal to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on bail while he awaits his appeal against his conviction as the Lockerbie bomber, has added unease to unease. It was not edifying to see lawyers quibble about when Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, is expected to die, then have the judge base his bail decision on that prediction.
At the Scottish court of criminal appeal, Lord Hamilton concluded that he might have a few more years left and therefore should not be released pending appeal. By way of consolation, he ruled that should his condition deteriorate more rapidly than expected, he could renew his application. What concerns me is that his appeal is unlikely to be heard before the summer. Why?
There has, for years, been a feeling among lawyers and others who have studied the case that Megrahi was not responsible for the bombing. Even Dr Jim Swire, the most prominent campaigner on behalf of Lockerbie victims, whose daughter died in the bombing, does not believe in his guilt; nor do the relatives of many other victims.
It has been alleged that because of the desire to have sanctions lifted against Libya, Muammar Gadafy delivered him to the Scottish authorities rather than the principal perpetrator. [RB: I am not aware of anyone having suggested that Megrahi was handed over in substitution for some other Libyan perpetrator.] The evidence against Megrahi has always seemed slightly deficient although, of course, the jury had convicted him [sic; he was in fact convicted by a court of three judges], and an appeal court in 2002 had turned down his first appeal.
Last year, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission studied new evidence and decided it was enough to justify Megrahi being granted another appeal. That does not mean the commission necessarily believes he is innocent, nor that the appeal court will necessarily overturn his conviction. But it does mean that he has a strong case.
Here's the dilemma - more moral than legal. If he is innocent, keeping a dying man in jail pending his appeal is a particularly cruel injustice to add to that of his years in prison. So why does the appeal have to wait so long? There can be no logistical reason.